Churchill's chosen souvenir from Queen Elizabeth's coronation
Churchill had long been a good friend of King George VI and the Queen Mother and he knew Elizabeth from a young age. As a friend of the Royal family, he was invited to both King George VI's coronation and the subsequent coronation of Queen Elizabeth. As a trusted friend Churchill was allowed to keep the chair he had sat on at King George's coronation and despite being offered his chair from Elizabeth's ceremony, he instead chose to keep the Order of Service as a souvenir.
Winston was the first of now 13 Prime Ministers that have served since Elizabeth became queen and it has often been said that he was her favourite. He had a warm friendship with her parents and had saved the country with his bulldog spirit and leadership. They also shared many interests, particularly that of horses, racing and polo.
Churchill knew Elizabeth from an infant and watched as she grew up. At their first audience following her taking the throne, Churchill told the young Queen Elizabeth II that he could advise her from a life of experience. Although the Queen found him obstinate on occasions, she learned much from the man who was over half a century older than her and he revelled in this protective and educative role.
This supportive role can be seen in Churchill's opposition to the coronation ceremony being filmed within Westminster Abbey. He told the Commons that, “it would be unfitting that the whole ceremony, not only its secular but also in its religious and spiritual aspects, should be presented as if it were a theatrical performance”. The 1953 Coronation Committee disagreed though and all but the Act of Consecration itself was televised to the nation.
" She has an air of authority and reflectiveness astonishing in an infant."
Elizabeth’s fondness for Churchill was evident even at his passing, when she granted him a state funeral. He was the first person outside of the Royal family to be granted this honour. Despite being against an old monarchial tradition, she also attended the funeral. It was important to her to pay humble homage to the great statesman who had guided her through life.
Many years after he had passed the Queen was asked which PM she most enjoyed meeting to which she replied ‘Winston of course, because it was always such fun.’
This Order of Service book, one of just 150 copies made, is an important part of our collection. With your donations we can secure this part of Winston's personal story at Chartwell forever, for everyone.